Canberra might not be the first place you think of to go on a weekend away, however I urge you to give it another thought as Canberra is a forgotten treasure filled with numerous attractions and beautiful tree-lined streets and gardens.
I have had Canberra on my ‘to see’ list for a while now as we were only a 4-hour drive from Canberra and when a long weekend opportunity arose I pounced on Booking.com and sealed the weekend away. Good Friday morning we were off on the road trip along with every other Victorian it seemed as hordes of Vic registered cars filled the double lane Hume heading north on the first day of the school holidays. Feeling peckish we stopped at a McDonald’s roadhouse for a quick bite….. the quick bite turned into a 25 minutes wait for our food as it was standing room only (Hot tip – if traveling on the first day of the school holidays… pack your own lunch!).
We arrived (barely alive after a car…. A Victorian merged across two lanes whilst dropping their speed from 100km to 40km within a 60m space without indicating almost causing a pileup in front of us) and checked into the Aria Hotel (include link) where we were upgraded to a nice 4th floor room with a view of the mountains. Having only 2 nights and 2.5 days in the capital I had a rough list of the key places we wanted to see and as the weather was due to be perfect every day we were there it didn’t matter what order it occurred in so our first stop was Questacon (essentially an interactive science museum).
- Questacon as a kid would be like wonderland, there is so much to see and do and a lot of hands on interaction which can keep kids entertained for hours. For adults it was still entertaining though some sections are dedicated almost primarily for kids so just skip over those parts or… if you’re a kid at heart get in there with the rest of them J. I learnt a lot about spiders I never even considered and as a result… I have let quite a few more live that I have seen creeping around outside so a win for the spiders that live on my lot ha-ha. Other highlights were the robot air hockey player and the different illusions and facts that are scattered here and there that make you think about things that previously seemed normal. It took us about 2 hours to go around the whole place and we are quite speedy when it comes to these places so on average you could easily spend 3 to 4 hours here.
- After Questacon we had a quick look at the outside of the national library (being a super book nerd myself) that was unfortunately closed but as it was getting later in the day by that stage it was a good point to walk down to Lake Burley Griffin (the large lake that the city is essentially built around)
- Dinner at the Wood & Coal restaurant, great food & wine selection, centrally located in Canberra city centre and a nice ambient atmosphere
- NASA Deep Dish Space Centre – the 30-minute drive there alone is worth the trek with winding roads through miles of forest and the gentle flowing river at your side however if you do love anything space related the NASA centre is a nice stop to escape the normal tourist trap locations. Entry to the centre is free and there are numerous space exhibits, the photo opportunity inside a space suit and most importantly the Dishes themselves which vary in size from approx. 22 stories down to approx. 6 stories in size. Whilst we were there we could see a screen that showed what the various dishes were tracking and you also have the opportunity to see them move to different angles to pick up new missions they are tracking.
- Federal Parliament – Grand in scale and quite a picturesque place to stroll around. The line to enter was quite long so I would recommend getting there early on warmer days or you will be waiting in the hot sun for quite a duration
- War Memorial – If there is one place that you should visit while in Canberra I would highly recommend the War memorial. If one was to look at all the displays here I believe it could take a full day as the amount of history located in these walls is unbelievable. You can walk around at your own pace or take free guided walks that run on the hour. Seeing the walls of names of those that perished to protect our future is moving at the grand scale of the number of people who lost their lives and the terrible toll that war has for so little gain
- Mt Ainsley – Located behind the war memorial a short drive up the mountain gives you a 360-degree view of Canberra and its countryside and reinforced our view that Canberra really is just a big country town.
Pho Phu Quoc Vietnamese Restaurant – Vietnamese dinner – highly recommend, super-fast service, cheap prices and so much food you will be rolling out the door
As you can see we only visited barely half of the things we could have visited in Canberra as we missed the National Library, The National Art Gallery, the national portrait Gallery, the national museum of Australia, the royal Australian mint and the Australian National botanic gardens just to name a few. Just another excuse to come back for another long weekend to this beautiful place